Paternal alcohol consumption in the rat impairs spatial learning performance in male offspring
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Pubescent (30 day old) male rats were maintained on an alcohol liquid diet containing 35% ethanol-derived calories (ALC) for 39 days or were pairfed an isocaloric control diet (PF). The concentration of alcohol in the diet was gradually increased to permit adaptation, then stabilized and then gradually tapered to prevent an alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Following a drug-free period (2 weeks), the males were mated with nontreated females. Offspring were evaluated on several developmental indices and on various learning/memory tasks to assess functional deficits in adulthood. Offspring sired by ALC-treated males did not differ from the offspring of PF males on several developmental parameters including body weights, when developmental landmarks appeared, or on tests of sensorimotor development. As adults, male offspring groups did not differ on tests of activity or on an object exploration/recognition task. However, male offspring of ALC-treated males demonstrated impaired acquisition performance (days and errors to criterion) on a win-shift spatial discrimination in an eight-arm radial maze and on a win-stay discrimination (days to criterion) conducted in a T-maze at a later age. The radial maze results were replicated in a subsequent experiment using different groups of rats.
Key wordsPaternal alcohol Learning and memory Radial arm maze Win-stay/T-maze Developmental landmarks Behavioral teratology
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